You don’t get many signings like Cesc Fabregas. A creative mastermind who had sworn allegiance to a direct rival club. To be honest with you, when the rumours circulated in 2014 that he would be joining Chelsea, I refused to believe it might happen.
His arrival shocked several Arsenal fans. Their feeling of betrayal warmed the hearts of Blues supporters as it would any rival fan. And given the deal cost a bargain £29.7m, it rubbed salt in Gunners’ wounds.
He was not the first player to have the ‘judas’ label attached to him by Arsenal fans, with Samir Nasri’s move to a new-money Manchester City team causing uproar. And of course there was Robin van Persie, Manchester United’s greatest steal. Thierry Henry will always be considered an Arsenal legend and yet even he prompted a feeling of betrayal when he left to join Barcelona.
Big clubs tend to do whatever it takes to turn the heads of the best players. Even if they were once rivals. Roman Abramovich knew what it meant to be in charge of a big club and it’s essential that Chelsea’s new owners follow suit.
“When I was with Arsenal I never believed I could feel what I felt towards Chelsea. It was impossible. But this is the beauty of football”, Fabregas told the Telegraph’s Matt Law back in 2020.
“Some teams I played in at Arsenal and Chelsea were similar in terms of talent, but the difference I felt straightaway is that at Chelsea we were ruthless.”
Ruthlessness is a key theme at Chelsea. Not just in playing style, but in the hierarchy also. Abramovich is known for his no-nonsense decision making, and his right hand, Marina Granovskaia has earned the title ‘Iron Lady’ for a reason. Being ruthless is in the club’s DNA.
The Abramovich era is coming to an end and even though new ownership is imminent, I cannot stress the importance of maintaining that big club energy. The same energy that bought Olivier Giroud over from our North London rivals, only for them to watch him lift the prestigious Champions League trophy that they long for.
That energy gave Cesc Fabregas two Premier League trophies in the space of three years while Arsenal had failed to win another since 2004.
Only the best clubs with formidable ownership could pull off steals like these and make it worthwhile for the player.
Fabregas mentions that the talents were similar but the attitude was different. Having played under three managers in Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte, and Maurizio Sarri, the expectation never changed. It was always to win. Win and keep everyone happy in the process. Current Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel understood this from the second he stepped foot into Stamford Bridge. He finds peace at Chelsea knowing that he will forever be competing at a high level, pushing his managerial ability to the limit.
I fear that with new ownership, the pressure will be off and the momentum may dip. Hence the importance of finding the right fit for the club.
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Chelsea fans are split as to whether they’d want to see this ruthlessness carried on into our new era. After all, it’s the same ruthlessness that had one of our greatest legends sacked in the second year of the job. Frank Lampard’s dismissal caused a serious divide among the fanbase. The controversial decision to join the European Super League that summer was also a slight stain on Abramovich’s legacy with the Chelsea faithful.
In the end, 2021 was still a successful year in spite of such cut-throat decisions. Tuchel led Chelsea to their second Champions League victory and a Super Cup trophy. And 2022 then saw this team conquer the world.
The key to Chelsea is ruthlessness. That’s the secret to winning over this demanding but understanding fanbase.
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